WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — American workers employed in the U.S. forest products industry visited Washington, D.C. this week to meet with members of Congress and administration officials. Their goal was to educate elected and appointed officials and staffers on the impact of legislative and regulatory decisions both on the environment and on the families and communities that depend on forest products manufacturing for their livelihood.
The Pulp & Paperworkers’ Resource Council (PPRC) is a grassroots organization of hourly employees of the forest products industry who educate on issues that impact jobs in their industry. More than 70 PPRC members from across the U.S. were in Washington this week to discuss several issues including the carbon neutrality of biomass and manufacturing byproducts, clean water, the regulatory burden impacting American manufacturing, endangered species, renewable energy, greenhouse gas regulations, truck weight reform and ensuring the competitiveness of the U.S. forest products industry.
In addition to meeting with their members of Congress, PPRC members met with administration officials of the OMB, EPA, CEQ, Senate Minority Whip Durbin, House Majority Leader Cornyn, Honorable Steny Hoyer-Democratic Whip, Speaker of the House Boehner, DOT, Office of the Vice President, Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch, Joint meeting with the Department of Interior & U.S. Fish & Wild Life, and the Forest Service. During their three days of meetings, PPRC members made 404 legislative and administration visits.
“We are at a time in this country where there is a glimmer of economic recovery, but communities around the country still need the types of good-paying jobs that forest products manufacturing provides – whether it’s making paper, building products, bath tissue or boxes,” said Patti Barber, PPRC chairwoman. “We make products that Americans use every day. The PPRC believes that our elected and government officials need to protect the environment while at the same time support the health and competitiveness of the U.S.
Forest Products Industry. Burdensome regulations and legislation ultimately only hurt the U.S. workers we represent and the communities where we live, work and play. Our industry represents more than 4 percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP; it employs about 900,000 people – many in small, rural communities; generates total wages of approximately $50 billion in communities across our country; and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 47 states.”
Issues that PPRC members addressed included:
- Carbon Neutrality of Biomass and Greenhouse Gas Regulations: The biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly as being carbon neutral by an abundance of studies, agencies, institutions, legislation
andrules around the world. But EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation of existing utilities is immensely expensive and raises many concerns regarding when biomass will be carbon neutral. Paper and wood manufacturers have always sought to use the “whole tree”, including using biomass residues from sustainable forestry operations to produce energy, displacing fossil fuel use and providing significant carbon reduction benefits to the environment.
- Clean Water: The Clean Water Act and its implementing regulations are one of our nation’s most successful and wide-ranging environmental programs. A proposed rule change by the EPA and the Corp. of Engineers would radically impact the original intent of the Clean Water Act, essentially giving those two organizations the right to regulate all waters of the U.S., expanding authority beyond “navigable” waters and even include agricultural field ditches and other water bodies and ditches that have been man-made. Should the proposed rule move forward unchanged, the economic impacts across nearly every sector of the economy and the strain on our states would be substantial.
- Cumulative Regulatory Burden: EPA should examine the sustainability of its regulatory program to embrace a balanced approach so costly air and other regulations will protect the public’s health while preserving family-wage manufacturing jobs. New ozone regulations could cost billions of dollars per year and place thousands of jobs at risk and could be the costliest regulation in history. In states and areas in which the EPA will classify as being in “nonattainment” with the Ozone Standard, manufacturers in those states will not be able to expand their business without other businesses in the area reducing emissions or shutting down. Economic expansion in these areas will slow dramatically.
- Endangered Species Act: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the northern
long earedbat as endangered. These bats roam in 39 states and are dying in some of those states due to a fungus called “white noise syndrome.” The presence and spread of this fungus isnot related to forest management activities. In well-managed forests where the fungus has not been found, the bats are thriving. Listing this bat as endangered will create serious concern regarding fiber supply for the forest products industry, which includes restrictions on harvesting fiber from April to October. Efforts should focus on curing the fungus rather than attempting to regulate forest habitat.
- Truck Weights: The PPRC supports legislation to allow states to increase the weight limit on trucks traveling on interstate highways. More than 40 states already allow
- heavier trucks on state roads.
“The PPRC believes it is vital to help elected and appointed officials understand how critical the forest products industry is to the health of the U.S. economy and the environment. We believe in balancing our environmental needs while securing existing manufacturing-based jobs in our local communities,” Barber said.
The United States is one of the world’s most diverse exporters of sustainable forest products. Exports account for about 15 percent of total U.S. forest products sales. The industry also generates economic benefits from indirect exports – such as domestic sales of paper, paperboard and wood packaging materials – that are used to package and transport goods exported by other U.S. industries.